The Financial Express

Coronavirus pandemic tests world as global tally tops 900,000

XINHUA | Published: April 02, 2020 15:52:05 | Updated: April 16, 2020 19:16:47

A stadium is seen empty in Bologna, Italy, on April 01, 2020. — Xinhua A stadium is seen empty in Bologna, Italy, on April 01, 2020. — Xinhua

The coronavirus pandemic is raging around the world, posing a thorny test for countries and regions, as the global tally of cases surpassed 900,000 on Wednesday.

So far, nations and regions have together reported more than 932,000 cases, with over 46,000 deaths, an interactive map maintained by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering showed.

The numbers came only a day after global COVID-19 diagnoses hit 800,000 mark.

"In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases, and 50,000 deaths," World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a daily briefing on Wednesday.

"Rapid escalation"

The pandemic is showing no sign of abating in Europe, where the confirmed cases were approaching 500,000 and the death toll swelled to 30,000 on Wednesday.

Spain became the third country that had more than 100,000 infections on Wednesday, after the United States and Italy.

In Italy, a further 727 deaths from COVID-19 were reported in the 24 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday, taking the death toll to 13,155. But that was the lowest daily tally of fatalities since March 26.

In France, 509 more COVID-19 patients have died in the past 24 hours, bringing the death tally to 4,032 on Wednesday, said general director of Health Jerome Salomon. The cumulative number of infection cases in the country rose to 56,989.

Across the Atlantic, the United States became the first nation with more than 200,000 COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, according to a new tally from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a total of 203,608 cases have been reported in the United States, with 4,476 deaths, showed the tally updated by the university's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

"As we enter the fourth month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection," the WHO chief said.

Economic medicine

The pandemic has posed a grave threat to the market's poise, as the United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) warned that the global economy could shrink by 1.0 per cent this year.

The DESA said in a report that economic anxiety and inequality will increase as the pandemic worsens.

The World Bank announced on Monday that it projected growth in developing economies in East Asia and the Pacific region to slow to 2.1 per cent in the baseline scenario amid the COVID-19 pandemic, from an estimated 5.8 per cent in 2019.

UN agencies continued to help countries contain the virus and limit its social-economic impact.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it has provided 78.8 million US dollars in responses to the pandemic. It includes 75 million dollars from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), with the rest coming from country-based, pooled funds.

Programmes in 15 countries have been supported through these funds and additional countries are being identified under the global CERF allocation of 60 million dollars -- one of the largest ever made. It is being used to kick-start the 2.0-billion-dollar COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan appeal.

So far, according to the OCHA, close to 374 million dollars in donor funds have been made available for the global plan.

Sustained measures

Italy will remain under a nationwide anti-coronavirus lockdown until April 13, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday evening.

The current lockdown, which started on March 10, was due to end on April 03.

"We are not in a condition to relax our restrictive measures yet ... and this is why I just signed a new decree that extends the current measures to April 13," Conte said.

Germany will also extend the restrictions on social contacts to April 19 at the earliest, in a bid to contain the spreading coronavirus, German chancellor Angela Merkel said.

The restrictions were initially due to end on April 05.

Citizens are asked to "refrain from private trips and visits from relatives too," Merkel added.

Also on Wednesday, Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa said he will request the extension of the current state of emergency for another 15 days, which was declared on March 18 and will end on Thursday.

"It is not yet time to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We know that at the bottom of the tunnel there is a light, but it is not yet in sight," Costa said.

While many European countries like Italy have adopted nationwide lockdown, US president Donald Trump said Wednesday that he will not issue a national stay-at-home order.

Governor of the US state of Florida Ron DeSantis issued an order Wednesday directing residents statewide to stay at home. Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada followed suit later in the day.

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